Patrick Renner's Sentinel Stands Guard at City Hall

All photos by Monica Fuentes
Sentinel by Patrick Renner
There's a plain esplanade, with grass and trees, on Montrose in front of the Art League of Houston building now. Up until recently, the colorful, whimsical Funnel Tunnel snaked its way through the trees. The public art installation was created by Patrick Renner, a 2015 Houston Press MasterMind Award winner. Made up of hundreds of thin strips of wood painted in a wild variety of colors and attached to a steel frame. Renner's Funnel Tunnel was recently dismantled and a new Renner installation popped up on the plaza of City Hall's front door.

Made of materials similar to those used in Funnel Tunnel, the round sculpture is three feet wide and 12 feet tall and resembles a tower. "It's called Sentinel," Renner tells us. "Originally it was going to be two smaller pieces, one o each side of the front doors. But then that idea was scrapped and I was told I'd have to move away from the doors. So instead of two six foot tall pieces I made on 12 foot tall piece."

This story continues on the next page.

More »

Meet the 2015 MasterMinds Winners: A Historian, an Artist and a Student Mariachi Orchestra

Categories: MasterMinds

As we announce the winners of the MasterMind Awards, now in their seventh year, it's clear that Houston's art scene has continued to evolve and reinvent itself, with some significant changes to the landscape in the past year.

The Alley Theatre and Main Street Theater are borrowing stages while they renovate and upgrade their facilities with an eye to reopening in 2015. Stages Repertory Theatre bought the building where it has staged its performances for several years. Dancemakers Jane Weiner and Dominic Walsh both closed their studios; Hope Stone continues its work, but Dominic Walsh Dance Theater is effectively disbanded while the choreographer works on personal projects and supports his longtime partner, Domenico Luciano, now a principal dancer for Colorado Ballet. Houston Grand Opera began its journey through Wagner's Ring Cycle with Das Rheingold, as well as launching a new winter holiday opera commission.

More »

Seeking MasterMind Award Nominees

Categories: MasterMinds


Know someone who could use a $2,000 no-strings-attached check? And some recognition?

In January the Houston Press will celebrate its seventh year of handing out MasterMind Awards, designed to go to three individuals or groups who are contributing a lot to the Houston area's artistic landscape.

This isn't a Hall of Fame or a lifetime body of work award. Instead it goes to groups or individuals doing great things now, folks who could use a little financial bump -- a $2,000 check -- as well as the added recognition the awards bring.

More »

MasterMinds 2013 Revisited: Karen Stokes and Karen Stokes Dance

Categories: MasterMinds

Photo by Jeff Myers
Winning a MasterMind award last January was the kickoff to a very good year, says Karen Stokes, founder of Karen Stokes Dance (KSD). "The big thing that happened lately is that we got a capacity building grant from Houston Arts Alliance, which gives us income to help us up build infrastructure and office space for the next three years."

Just one of six organizations chosen for the program this year, KSD is set to receive help in developing administrative skills and organizational systems. "It's looking at the business end of the arts organization in order to sustain it over time. It's really important because it's hard to get funding for that boring stuff," Stokes laughs. "It's hard enough to get people to give funding for the exciting projects, nobody wants to give us funding for an office. This grant does."

KSD had previously received small grants from the Houston Art Alliance, but the General Operating Support grant was first large, longterm HAA award for KSD. "We've been knocking on the door at Houston Arts Alliance for a long time and this is the first time they really opened the door. Did the [MasterMind award] lead to our winning [the HAA grant] this year? I don't know. Maybe not directly, but it didn't hurt!"

More »

MasterMinds 2013 Revisited: Philip Lehl and Stark Naked Theatre Company

Categories: MasterMinds

All photos courtesy of Stark Naked Theatre
Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin in rehearsal for Macbeth.
There were lots of high points in 2013 for Stark Naked Theatre Company, Philip Lehl, co-artistic director with Kim Tobin, tells us. Pressed to pick just one, Lehl says, "I'd have to say the scene in Macbeth where Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are plotting the murder of Duncan just because it was the two of us, [Kim and I] in an iconic moment. There we were, getting to do Macbeth because we worked really hard to build this theater company."

Lehl, who along with his wife, Tobin, founded Stark Naked in 2011, says winning a 2013 MasterMind award was a turning point in the company's financial health and stability. "I think the MasterMind really, really helped us in that it was the first occurrence of an entity showing support for us with a large check. Now we can point to that and say, 'The Houston Press thinks we're you want to support us, too?' We're poised to begin approaching major donors, both private donors and corporations. And the fact that our fund-raising is on track means that Kim and I can think about making good art instead of stressing about funding."

More »

MasterMinds 2013 Revisited: Enrique Carreón-Robledo and Opera in the Heights

Categories: MasterMinds

Opera in the Heights Artistic Director Enrique Carreón-Robledo
Last year Opera in the Heights, a 2013 MasterMinds Award winner, had an ambitious all-Shakespeare season that featured operas unfamiliar to most audience members. There was Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi and Rossini's Otello, both making their Houston premieres, along with Verdi's Macbeth and Falstaff. "Last year was about stretching, it was a risk taking season," OIH Artistic Director Enrique Carreón-Robledo tells us. "It was, I think, a very successful season and we will continue to take some risks in our programing but we will add more familiar works to the season as well. The most important thing after a season like that is to not to get carried away, not to go too far."

Carreón-Robledo says the company is trying to find a balance now, trying to meet ever higher artistic standards while keeping the practical aspects of financial stability in mind. "We are still putting the final touches on the next season, but there will be at least one piece that will continue in that [risky] direction, taking the success we had last season and making it grow. We made a signature for the company with the Shakespeare season, one that says we are willing to take risks. Now we're getting ready for the next time it is right to take risks again."

More »

Our Annual Thanks to the Houston Arts Scene

Photo by Jann Whaley
Venus in Fur with Nicole Rodenburg as Vanda and Michael Bakkensen was just one of many endeavors that fired up the Houston arts scene in the past year

It's become a tradition to ask our Art Attack bloggers what they are thankful for in the Houston arts scene this year. Here's this year's reaction:

Think of our performing arts scene as a grand banquet, a great groaning board full of savory dishes. Just since the official opening of the current season, look upon the entrees we've already tasted: classic fare like Main Street's The Real Thing; Houston Ballet's The Merry Widow; the Alley's You Can't Take It With You; Houston Grand Opera's Aida; A.D. Players' Arsenic and Old Lace, all prepared by the finest of chefs.

Then there were the mouth-watering side dishes, like TUTS new underground series that began with the grunge musical Lizzie; GEXA on Broadway's Peter and the Starcatcher and Chicago; and the Alley's Venus in Fur, the flavors were tantalizing. And let's not forget the highly spiced appetizers: Music Box Musicals' Avenue Q; Mildred's Umbrella's Carnival Round; Catastrophic's The Pine, Bayou City Concert Musicals' The Pajama Game. The food never stops, it's finely served, and just makes you hungry for more.

Not satisfied yet, just wait. Look what's in store for the next seating: 50 Shades of Grey; Wagner's Das Rheingold; Other Desert Cities, Aladdin, The Diary of Anne Frank, Vera Stark, American Idiot. The banquet in Houston never stops. Go gorge yourself, giving thanks all the while for Houston's performing arts bounty which is, as we all know, food fit for the gods. - D.L. Groover

I've written several Creatives profiles this year and I am so grateful to see so many people in Houston making a living (or at least a go) at a lifestyle that does not require sitting inside a cubicle. It gives me immense confidence in the creative diversity of this city. It's also so inspiring on a personal level to talk to people who are overwhelmingly passionate about what they do. That makes me want to be a better writer. - Brittanie Shey

More »

Nominations Now Open for Sixth Annual MasterMind Awards

Categories: MasterMinds

So who deserves a MasterMind Award this time?
It's that time again. Nominations are now open for the sixth annual MasterMind Awards competition honoring the best in Houston arts.

Once again, the Houston Press is looking for artists of all types who are changing our creative and cultural landscape in the Houston area. Past honorees have included theater, opera and dance companies; museums; chefs and filmmakers.

Last year's winners were Opera in the Heights and its artistic director Enrique Carreon-Robledo; Karen Stokes Dance, a modern dance company known for quirky work and its namesake founder; and Stark Naked Theatre and its co-founders and husband-and-wife team Philip Lehl and Kim Tobin. All, we're happy to note, are still going strong.

Once again, we're calling on you for nominations. If you know any of these life-changing artistic types, please send in their names and something about them to us. If you want to nominate yourself, by all means do so. And please don't limit yourself to the genres of past winners. We're very proud of all of them, but we'd also be pleased to see some scriptwriters, street performers and show choirs in the mix.

More »

Houston Press Artopia 2013 - The Winners are In

blogcover 1_24.jpg
In today's edition of the Houston Press we are announcing this year's winners of our MasterMind Award. For five years now we've handed out checks of $2,000 to three individuals or groups for doing what we believe is outstanding work in the Houston arts community.

As in years past, the 2013 winners come from different fields in the arts. Opera, stage and dance are represented this year and at this Saturday's awards ceremony during our Artopia party at Winter Street Studios, all three will show us a brief onstage sample of what made them winners.

Past winners have used the money they received to help them start new programs, move buildings or just pay the bills. We don't put limits on what they can do with the money they receive.

Equally, if not more important, many have told us, is the recognition they receive from the award, in the local community and beyond.

So without further ado, here's this year's winners. But go ahead and read the entire cover story by Night and Day Editor Olivia Flores Alvarez to get more details on three pretty amazing stories.

More »

MasterMinds 2012 Revisited: The Pilot Light Restaurant Group on the Perils of Publicity

Categories: MasterMinds

Photo by Marco Torres
From left: Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner
After being named one of our MasterMinds Awards winners in January, Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, the duo behind the Pilot Light Restaurant group, got a little bit of unwanted attention.

"We got shut down by the health department," Siegel-Gardner said.

The two friends, who met in kitchens in New York City, got their Houston start with the Just August Project, a monthlong series of pop-up dinners in 2010. By the following fall, they were cooking meals in the stock room of the Westheimer clothing boutique Mortar while looking for a space to start a restaurant of their own.

The health department didn't like that very much.

More »